After the excitement of more than sixty games, the compelling drama of the knock-out stages, and the inevitable disappointment of a final match fraught with brutality and ill-discipline, it was time for me to take a break. As I have commented before, I have sensed my devotion flagging after more than forty years, the last few of which have been stained by disappointment and occasional despair. In the referee program, we seem no further ahead, technically and professionally, than we were twenty years ago. Yes, we have a structure in place: tournaments with assessments; academies with instruction; referee-coaches at professional matches; and international opportunities that FIFA referees in the seventies and eighties could only dream of.
Yet still, there is a breach to be filled and conquered, as Henry V had to do at Harfleur in 1415, before the great battle of Agincourt that same year. We have a battle-plan, we have people in place to enact it, we have troops in the fields, but the weapons we swing and the ammunition we use are inadequate for the task. You can see the weakness at almost every throw-in, every free kick, every set-piece near goal, which can only mean that our training and our evaluating, however well-intentioned, are not up to the task. I'll have more to say about this soon, especially about the new DVD on how to handle free-kicks. But for now, take a look at a broken leg in a youth game, an foul and injury that went unpunished . . .